This Vietnamese noodle soup dish is called “bún suông” and it is originated from Trà Vinh province (in southwestern Vietnam).
Etymologically, “bún” is a Vietnamese soft rice noodle, often translated as rice vermicellli, “suông” is an altered pronunciation of “đuông” which is a local name for “palm worm”. Of course, this noodle soup is not made of worms, but freshly-made prawn paste. The prawn paste will be dripped into a boiling broth pot, and this literally creates worm-like pieces.
The broth of bún suông can be prepared in two ways:
The seafood version: Dried cuttlefish are boiled to get a clear broth or consomé. Cuttlefish is actually some flat squid species, just in case you are not familiar with the terms. White radish or daikon radish is optional.
The pork version: Simply cook the broth using pork bones, just make sure the broth is clear and odorless. Daikon radish is necessary.
The prawn strips are made from the fresh prawn paste, marinated with some spices. They can be cooked by frying in a pan or boiling right in the broth pot.
The pork broth is more common because of cheap ingredients, but the seafood version can be found in some local gourmet restaurant. Sometimes Vietnamese cooks combine the two versions together: they cook the pork stock with some extra pieces of dried squids or prawns.
The bún suông noodle soup is often served with some pork hock slices or some picnic shoulder cuts.
In Vietnam, the accompanying condiment is made of fermented whole-grain soy paste (Vietnamese: tương hột). It can be added directly into the serving bowl or as a separate dipping sauce.
Step by step method
Cooking the pork stock
In a pot of water, cook the pork bones with daikon radish and crushed dried shrimps or squids and a little salt to make the broth. Cook for about 2 hours. Pay attention to skim off the foam to make sure the broth water is clear and clean.
Cooking the pork hocks
Rinse the pork hocks and boil them in a pot of water with two crushed Asian shallots. Boil for about 40 mins until the pork hocks are cooked. Drain and then cut into thin slices.
Preparing the prawn paste
In a food blender, puree the minced prawn with minced garlic, black pepper, some tapioca starch, minced scallion white into paste. Pour the prawn paste into a piping bag.
Cooking the broth
When the broth is ready, turn on the heat. Over the hot boiling broth, squeeze the piping bag to make multiple prawn strips. When the prawn strips float to the surface, add fresh marinated prawns into the broth. Season the broth.
Frying prawn strips
Alternately, you can fry the prawn strips instead. Add some oil to a frying pan, heat up and fry the prawn strips until they are golden brown.
Prepare a dipping sauce with fermented whole-grain soy paste and tamarind paste. Alternately, add those spices into the broth.
Use a spider spoon to blanch a serving portion of rice noodle. In a serving bowl, add the blanched noodle, then the pork hocks, some cooked prawns, and some prawn strips. Then pour the broth onto the bowl.
Tips & variations
Rinsing the prawns with rice wine helps remove the odd smell of the prawns.
You can cook the pork stock using the pork hocks only.
Vietnamese cuisine is the method of cooking, the principle of mixing spices and the general dining habits of all Vietnamese people in Vietnam. With a unique geography, climate, and cultural exchange, the cuisine of Vietnam is extremely diverse and rich. The characteristics of Vietnamese cuisine is the focus on the freshness, so Vietnamese dishes are generally perceived as delicious and healthy.